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In "Crazy Quilt" Of Cop Pursuit Rules, KC-Area Chases Kill 23 In Decade

In a crazy quilt of conflicting, uncoordinated police pursuit policies in more than 60 departments across a six-county, two-state Kansas City metropolitan area, there have been more than 700 pursuit-related crashes in a decade, say data analyzed by the Hale Center for Journalism and The Kansas City Star. Those crashes killed at least 23 people, and injured hundreds more, including at least 11 police officers.

Standardizing pursuit policies would “absolutely cut down on deaths and injuries,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a police pursuit expert at the University of South Carolina. It rarely happens, he says, because local police chiefs can’t agree on what those policies should be and are often under political pressure to keep their own individual policies. Kris Turnbow, former Raytown, Mo., chief of police, said it’s time. “Now is the time for us to put a regionwide policy in place,” Turnbow said. We should do it now, he said, because of recent improvements that allow area police departments to better communicate with one another. The area needs a common policy leaning toward pursuits that are limited to serious crimes such as violent felonies, Turnbow said.

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Witnesses In Disputed WA Police Shooting Say Victim Asked To Be Killed

Two witnesses said an unarmed Mexican immigrant fatally shot by police in Pasco, Wa., fought with an officer, threw rocks and told officers to shoot him before they opened fire, say newly released documents reported by the Associated Press. Witness Miguel Estrada said said he saw Antonio Zambrano-Montes throw rocks at officers then run away before he was shot on Feb. 10. Estrada said Zambrano-Montes screamed at officers: “ ‘If you are gonna shoot me, shoot me.’ ”

The death of the 35-year-old Zambrano-Montes was captured on video and led to months of protests in the town that is an agricultural center. A prosecutor is deciding whether the three officers who shot Zambrano-Montes should face criminal charges. Another witness, Chris Pirtle, also told authorities Zambrano-Montes dared officers to shoot. “He kept on throwing the rocks, and the cop was telling him, ‘Hey, put down the rock,’ ” Pirtle said. Zambrano-Montes didn’t comply, witnesses said. “He just kept telling him, ‘Shoot me, kill me,’ ” Pirtle said. Authorities say Zambrano-Montes had been throwing rocks at passing motorists and police, and a stun gun failed to subdue him before he was shot. 

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As CA Realignment Cuts Prison Numbers, 28 Counties Expand 35 Jails

Under California's realignment of prisons and jails, 28 counties are leveraging $1.7 billion in state grants to build and expand 35 jails, reports the Marshall Project. These projects will initially add about 12,000 jail beds in the state, says the Public Policy Institute of California. Many of the new jails are designed to accommodate future expansions that could significantly increase their capacity.

Riverside got $100 million to expand the Indio jail, which will cost more than $330 million to complete. The state made available another $500 million to subsidize additional jail projects, and Riverside officials plan to apply for an additional $80 million to expand another jail. “The purpose was to lower the number of incarcerated people, but it seems somehow that got lost in the translation,” said Vonya Quarles, a Riverside attorney and director of a local housing program for formerly incarcerated people. “They are not going to let those beds stay empty.” Although the violent crime rate in Riverside is lower than the state average, local Riverside prosecutors and judges have for decades sent a disproportionately high percentage of offenders to state prison. 

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TX Passed Criminal Justice Bills, Failed To Cut Prison Spending

The recently concluded session of the Texas legislature failed to curb police abuses, rein in asset forfeiture or address sentencing issues, allowing the corrections budget to "balloon massively" (by nearly a half billion dollars over two years), says the Grits for Breakfast blog. Texas led the states with more than 168,000 prisoners as of 2013, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In addition, new Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed some criminal justice bills that did pass "based on deeply flawed reasoning," the blog asserts.

Despite those flaws, the overall record of the legislature includes "a pretty impressive array of criminal-justice policy accomplishments." Among them: eliminating the "pick a pal" system that allowed judges to pick members of grand juries, decriminalizing truancy, shifting juvenile incarceration from state youth prisons to regional detention centers, creating an innocence commission to study causes of false convictions, and providing habeas corpus relief to defendants who are falsely convicted based on "junk science."

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"Social Butterfly" Johnson "Gets Things Done" At DHS Via Soirees

In a stay-at-home administration, one member of President Obama's cabinet is proving to be the toast of the town, Politico reports. Jeh Johnson, the oh-so-serious-on-the-outside secretary of Homeland Security, is fast becoming Washington’s No. 1 social butterfly, dining out at posh restaurants. For a guy who’s been running a 24/7 war against terror since 2013, Johnson seems to have a lot of time to trip the light fantastic. He can often be seen enjoying regular catch-up sessions with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and mingling at black-tie soirées.

“There’s rarely an invitation he’ll turn down,” says an aide to Johnson. “He’s unique in that besides genuinely liking new people and new things, he’s actually learned that in this town, being interested goes a lot farther than merely making friends—it actually helps get things done.” Like what? “After the president’s budget passed completely but without funding for DHS, we were headed for a furlough,” the aide says. “Through sheer force of will — and more than a little bit of one-on-one, face-to-face lobbying for his department to each and every one of the members of Congress who were holding it up, he got it done. It was masterful."

 



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False Alarm As Shooting Is Reported At Washington Navy Yard

Almost two years after a shooting left a dozen people dead at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., police flooded the area and locked down the complex after a report of another shooting today, but it was a false alarm, the Washington Post reports. City Council member Charles Allen, whose ward includes the installation said, "Everyone is accounted for and they are interviewing the lone person that called in [the] sound of gunfire."

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NE Death-Penalty Foes Outraising Governor in Fight Over Executions' Future

After the Nebraska legislature voted to abolish the state's death penalty, an expensive battle has begun to bring it back. So far, the side against the death penalty is winning the fundraising battle, reports BuzzFeed. The money is all about the potential for a statewide vote on the death penalty. In May, the legislature narrowly overruled Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of the measure that abolished the death penalty. Ricketts vowed there would be a referendum to give voters the option to bring it back.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty must collect 57,000 signatures by August to get the vote on the ballot. If they can manage to collect 114,000 signatures, the death penalty will remain on the books until voters weigh in. The group estimates that it would need to spend $900,000. The group has been outraised by an organization opposing the death penalty referendum, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Nebraskans for the Death Penalty raised $259,744, and more than 75 percent of that came from the governor’s family. On the other side, Nebraskans for Public Safety (an anti-death penalty group), has a $400,000 contribution from a progressive organization called Proteus Action League. Ricketts believes he will still be able to carry out the executions of the 10 men on death row. His corrections department has spent more than $50,000 on execution drugs from a seller based in India.

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TCR at a Glance

Treating Mentally Ill Offenders

June 30, 2015

An Illinois lawsuit claims “deliberate indifference’ to the needs of the state’s 11,000 mentally ill prisoners.

Locked Up and Alone

special report June 29, 2015

Is isolating troubled kids solitary confinement? A California debate draws national attention.